Sometimes people with firm beliefs are accused of being intolerant. Yet it can also be the case that people with strong beliefs strongly believe that we need to respect others even if they strongly disagree! We must not confuse disagreement with intolerance nor assume strong belief as unreasonable. In fact we have a strange and dangerous new intolerance emerging in our society dressed up as tolerance! It criticises those who do have clear beliefs and tries to shut them up calling them intolerant! We have extreme political correctness that refuses to call a spade a spade or to acknowledge the plain nose in front of its face! Christian Union groups have been refused rooms to meet on university campuses by a number of Student Union bodies. Those who say, “I firmly believe”, are written off as bigots. The hypocrisy is that those who try to silence strong believers obviously have strong beliefs themselves!
Strong beliefs that are based on good and reasonable evidence can stand debate. The key is the pursuit of truth and the willingness to be honest with the facts. This is why openness and honesty in government and media is so important. How can people form balanced and fair opinions if they are not told the truth or feel they are not told the truth?
People must be allowed to speak freely and in turn be willing to have their opinions tested in the light of available evidence. In the 19th Century a scholarly movement began in Germany which took the Bible to task. The so called ‘Higher Criticism’ asked searching questions dissecting and criticising the Bible from cover to cover. Much of the negative result of this research has been overthrown as new textual and archaeological evidence has since come to light. The overall effect of these searching questions is that the veracity, historicity and reliability of the Bible is even more clear and many Christians today have a renewed confidence in the Bible.
In my office there’s a world map and a list of 50 countries where persecution against Christians is worst. In some nations there are laws against people converting to Christianity and even against Christians talking to others about their faith. The worldwide picture is of increasing persecution, often motivated by an ignorant fear. This was true of the Pharaoh at the time of Moses, who feared the Hebrew tribes and ordered the slaughter of baby boys. The Romans justified their persecution of Christians with reference to hearsay rather than facts. Modern states have also painted Christianity as a threat to the order of society to justify persecution. Yet the Bible tells Christians to be good citizens, hard workers and caring people! The Bible never teaches that Christians should seek a ‘Christian state’ which excludes other beliefs. Instead it teaches Christians to be like ‘salt’ within the community.
A healthy society has freedom of speech and the desire to pursue truth and a willingness to change in the light of it.
Carl Meachem – November 2007